May 4, 2021 By Jonathan Bandler, Rockland/Westchester Journ News
Westchester County prosecutors have consented to DNA testing on evidence that contributed to the 1992 conviction of Carolyn Warmus in the so-called “Fatal Attraction” killing of her lover’s wife.
Warmus was paroled two years ago after serving 27 years in prison for the Jan. 15, 1989 shooting death of Betty Jeanne Solomon in the victim’s Greenburgh townhouse.
But she continues to maintain her innocence and has sought to have three pieces of evidence tested to determine if they can exonerate her by identifying another suspect.
Most significant is a glove with microscopic traces of blood that played prominently in her second trial.
A Westchester judge last year denied Warmus’ motion. But she appealed and on Monday, on the eve of oral arguments before an appellate panel, Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah consented to the testing.
The other evidence is semen recovered from the victim and blood found in a tote bag of the victim’s husband, Paul Solomon. None of the evidence ever underwent DNA testing.
Warmus was a young teacher mentored by Solomon at Edgemont’s Greenville Elementary School when the two began an affair.
On the night of the killing, they met at a Yonkers restaurant before having sex in the parking lot. When Solomon returned home that night he found his wife’s body.
She had been shot nine times but managed to briefly call 911, although a dispatcher was unsure whether she said “he” or “she” was trying to kill her. Police did not immediately find her because the wrong address was connected to the call.
There were no witnesses to the shooting and no physical evidence ever tied Warmus to the crime scene. The gun used to kill Solomon was never found.
The crime garnered much media attention and drew comparisons to the 1987 movie “Fatal Attraction,” starring Glenn Close and Michael Douglas.
Warmus was charged with second-degree murder in 1990. Her first trial ended in a hung jury, 8-4 favoring conviction. She was convicted in 1992 after a second trial, in which the only new evidence was the glove.
When police processed the crime scene, a black glove described as leather was found near the body. But it was never collected as evidence after a test there using leucomalachite failed to detect any blood.
Before the second trial, Solomon found a black cashmere glove in a closet and turned it over to prosecutors. It had a tiny amount of blood that at the time could not be tested for DNA.
Prosecutors maintained the glove belonged to Warmus and that she had left it there at the time of the killing. They presented evidence that Warmus had bought a similar pair at Filene’s Basement in Greenburgh 14 months before the killing. The Solomons’ daughter, who was friendly with Warmus, also claimed Warmus had let her try on those gloves.
After much legal wrangling the judge allowed the glove into evidence and the defense has long maintained it was the key evidence that led to Warmus’ conviction.
In 2017, then-Acting District Attorney James McCarty had initially consented to the testing. But the office later reversed course after lab officials suggested that testing of the glove was “neither feasible nor practical.”
Westchester County Judge Helen Blackwood denied Warmus’ request, ruling that “regardless of whose DNA is found on that glove, there is no reasonable probability that the answer would have resulted in a more favorable outcome for the defendant.”
Warmus’ lawyer, Dennis Kelly, argued in an appellate brief earlier this year that Blackwood’s conclusion should be overturned.
“The court’s reasoning ignores the most compelling assumption in this murder case; that the person wearing the glove was the killer,” Kelly wrote.
Testing the semen was also appropriate, Kelly argued, because Betty Jean Solomon was known to have affairs. He contends that if semen matched someone other than Solomon that would have tipped the balance in Warmus’ favor.
Kelly and two other lawyers, exonerees Jeffrey Deskovic and John O’Hara, urged the DA’s Office late last month to relent on the testing, citing Rocah’s commitment to fight wrongful convictions. They also want her conviction integrity unit to take a full look at the case, including the circumstantial evidence that linked Warmus to the purchase of a gun and ammunition.
They argue that the testing could reveal evidence showing someone other than Warmus was present at the time Solomon was murdered. Also, if leucomalachite is not detected on the glove, it would show that the glove should not have been allowed into evidence because it was not the one observed near the body.
Deskovic was an ardent supporter of Rocah in her campaign for DA last year. He was freed in 2006 after 16 years in prison when DNA testing he had long sought proved another man had raped and murdered a classmate of Deskovic’s in Peekskill.
O’Hara waged a 20-year battle alleging a vendetta by the then Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes before his 1997 conviction for illegally voting was overturned.
The conviction integrity unit is not fully operational yet and its protocols have not been finalized.
Through a spokesman, Rocah said the letter was received a week ago, “a time frame that is not sufficient for a new administration to undertake a full and fair review of such an important issue.”
“However, because a prior DA’s administration initially consented to DNA testing, and because we have only just established this office’s first-ever independent Conviction Review Bureau and developed the bureau’s intake protocols, we will make an exception and consent to the requested DNA testing in this specific case.”